Category Archives: Grad School

#SAGrad Wrap Up: Lessons Learned & Life Moving Forward

“She believed she could, so she did.”~Anonymous

I am still processing the fact that I am finished with my graduate school journey. My classes are done and I have the degree. I am officially Angela M. Delfine, M.A.. What an incredible adventure the last 2 years have been, from crying over assignments to being so exhausted that I went to bed at 7:30PM to somehow managing to wedding plan in the midst of it all. This journey has made me stronger. I am more confident in my abilities. I feel capable and worthy of this degree. And for the first time, I feel motivated to continue this journey to pursue my doctoral work in the near future.

Going forward, I realize that I’ve learned a thing or two from my time as an SA Grad. Here are a few of my key lessons learned:

Celebrate the small wins. Life is too short to stress out about doing everything perfectly.  If you got a solid ‘B’ on that really difficult paper celebrate it. If you went to bed early for once celebrate it. Sometimes it’s the small things that add up to success.

Take time to get to know your cohort/colleagues in some capacity. One of my personal goals was to have some sort of positive relationship with everyone in my cohort. I knew that it wasn’t possible to be best friends with everyone, but I knew that I didn’t have the time or energy to have a bad relationship with anyone in the program. It is essential not to burn bridges with colleagues. Yes, there were moments of frustration with some individuals but at the end of the day, I genuinely feel that I have a solid professional network out there from those that I’ve met in my program.

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Make time for fun. Yes, academic work is the reason why I was in the program, but building relationships, making time for friends and family, and having fun is essential to living a fulfilling life. Make time for fun. You don’t have to do homework every single day to do well in graduate school, I promise.

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Don’t beat yourself up. It’s so easy to be hard on yourself for not living up to academic expectations or not scoring a job interview. Know that you’re awesome and everyone has rough days. Don’t beat yourself up over the losses. Pick yourself up and try again tomorrow.

Make time to reflect on your mistakes. Know that everyone makes personal and professional mistakes. That’s how we grow. Make time to reflect on mistakes, both big and small either on your own, with a colleague that you can trust, or a mentor. Reflection is the key to growth, especially in this field.

Take advantage of experiences without saying yes to everything. This is a tough one. It’s so important to step up and take advantage of experiences during your SA Grad career while also knowing when you need to step back and say no. A balance between the two is necessary. Also, take advantage of things that you know that you’ll enjoy. It makes things a bit easier.

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Chaperoning is a super easy & fun way to get some professional experience in the field! This is me with some of the UPJ College Democrats during a trip to Philadelphia.

Make time for self-care. Yes, my usual go-to. The greatest thing to remember is that self-care isn’t always bubble baths and spa days (although those are both great). Self-care is drinking water every day or going to bed at a decent time. It’s having a healthy meal instead of grabbing take-out again. Self-care is self-preservation, especially in grad school. It’s so easy to lose yourself at this time, so make sure that you always recenter yourself and focus on your wellbeing.

The girl writing this today is not the same one who started her student affairs journey at Saint Mary’s College 5 years ago. That girl had no confidence in her voice or in her professional abilities. She had no clue who she was or what her place was in this world. After a life-changing three years in Notre Dame, IN and 2 years in the IUP SAHE program, it’s safe to say that I am prepared for this world. I understand my calling to this profession and I’m motivated to do good things for the field of student affairs. I am an educator, a friend, a colleague, a resource, and a scholar. I am a strong female leader. I am confident. And for the first time, I feel prepared for the success that I deserve.

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Picking Myself Back Up #SAGrad #SAJobSearch

I’m writing this blog post for those who, like me, are also feeling a little beaten down today. Who aren’t on their “A” game. Who are struggling to stand up and say “I’m awesome and I’m going to get through this.” I like to practice what I preach, and even though I really try to find the good in everything I still need to be realistic. Sometimes life gets the best of me and drags me down.

Like many other SA Grads out there this job search feel endless and completely defeating at times. I’ve worked so hard, yet the uncertainty of my future is still lingering. Where will I be two months from now after graduation? Why aren’t half of these jobs calling me? What is wrong with me? Although I need to keep my head held high, I still have moments where I wonder whether or not I’m going to be jobless. The job search process in the field of student affairs is, to be blatantly honest, terrible at times. Yes, I know that everyone says “trust the process,” but in reality, the best that we can do is keep reapplying for jobs and surviving.

Of course, moments like this come with everything stressful happening all at once. A million assignments. Personal family issues. Anxiety. Complete exhaustion. When it rains, it pours. Always. And even though it’s cliché, I still have to keep reminding myself that it can only go up from here in these moments. Because it can. And it will.

So if you’re also on this SA job search journey like me, know that there are others out here struggling. My last blog post was about maintaining positivity throughout my journey,  and I’m going to commit to just that. I am deserving of the opportunities I have been provided. I will end up somewhere where I am meant to grow. I am strong, confident, and competent. I will not let rough weeks when life, family, and everything else goes wrong destroy me. I can do this. We can do this. You’re strong, confident, and competent, too. Now let’s show them what we’re made of.

My Positive #SAJob Search

I’m sure that many of you 2019 Student Affairs grads can agree that the tedious, exhausting job search process is not necessarily one that we are looking forward to. Yes, we’re excited to graduate and move into the “adult” world, but I know that I personally would rather have the option of just automatically having a job handed to me instead of doing all-day interviews. The student affairs job interview process is extremely mentally taxing and exhausting, especially to all my fellow introverts, which is why I decided to step back and reflect on how I plan on surviving the search over the next few months. As some of you know, I worked professionally for 4 years before returning to grad school. I’m no expert (and I’m just as anxious as everyone else about getting a job), but I did learn a thing or two the first time I searched for a student affairs job. Hopefully these “words of wisdom,” hacks, or whatever you want to call them will help to bring some peace and organization to your job search process as well.

Everyone’s job search process won’t be the same. Try not to compare yourself to others.

The first thing to keep in mind is that we are going through this process together, but none of our processes will be the same. This is why I hate the phrase “trust the process.” By saying the process, there is an implication that all of our job search processes are the same. Based on our functional areas of interest, skill sets, locations of interest, etc. our job processes will all be very different. I know that I’m personally conducting a location-bound search, so I won’t necessarily have as many options as my peers who are comfortable moving all over the country. We will all end up where we are meant to be at the end of our individual processes.

Try not to compare your skillset to your peers as well.

This is especially important to keep in mind if you are applying to the same jobs as your peers. Know that we all carry different skillsets and have different personality types that may be a better fit with certain institutions over others. Try not to be discouraged when you don’t receive an interview with an institution, but a friend in your cohort does. You just may have a skillset that aligns better with another role or institution.

Support your cohort members and build each other up.

Yes, this is a competitive job search process, but we need to accept and to celebrate the achievements of our peers and cohort members. There is no reason to disregard the relationships we gained over the past few years in order to be combative during this competitive process. This process is also very mentally draining (and disappointing at times), so we need to move forward into the next few months with kindness, support, and encouragement.

Take Care of Yourself.

Again, this is a mentally draining process for many, if not all of us. It’s ok to take breaks from sifting through job search sites and postings (even though I’m currently struggling to stop doing this). Make time for you. Schedule specific times to job search and complete applications instead of allowing it to dictate your entire life.

 

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Celebrate your small wins.

Remember to keep your confidence during this process and to celebrate the small wins. Even something as simple as getting your first phone interview is exciting! You have a lot to bring to the table, so try not to bring yourself down when you don’t find a job right away. The first time I completed my process, I only had my bachelor’s degree. I had maybe 20 phone interviews and 8 on-campus interviews before I scored my first job. It’s easy to become discouraged (and completely okay at times). The important thing is to bounce back and express gratitude for the good things happening during this process.

Stay Organized.

Keep a spreadsheet of every institution that you apply to and every institution that you are highly interested in. It would be extremely disappointing to complete an application and then to finally realize that you already submitted one to that institution. Something else to keep in mind is that some institutions do not post to hiring platforms like higheredjobs because of the costs, so it’s a good idea to check HR websites of institutions of interest as well.

Remember that institutional fit is just as important to you as it is to the hiring committee.

Always keep in mind that you are also interviewing the institution when you have an on-campus interview. You want to make sure that the institutional fit is a good one for you as well. Don’t settle if an institution gives off “bad” vibes or something doesn’t feel right. It’s also important to make sure that the mission of the institution aligns with your values for the most part or if there are some policies that you do not agree with, that you can still work with them and maintain your personal values. Also, ask about the basic requirements of the job. Not every “Resident Director” position, for example, is the same. You want to make sure that you are aware of all of your requirements before going into the position.

Be as genuine as possible during interviews.

It is just as important to be as “real” as possible during interviews as it is to be on our professional “A game.” You can still let your personality shine through while maintaining professionalism. During my first job search I would make a joke about not judging my professionalism based on my dining habits when I would share a meal with interviewers. For the most part, the individuals would laugh. When I interviewed with the institution that ended up hiring me, a colleague (who later became a good friend) accidentally spilled water on her shirt during the meal. We all laughed, and I knew at that moment that the institution was a good fit for me. When you’re genuine with colleagues during an interview, it shows.

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Me right before attending my first job placement conference at MAPC!
The reality is that many professionals in our field don’t find their dream job right away. The important thing is to keep searching. Hold your head up. Try to continue to build your skillset wherever you end up so that you can continue to that next professional step in the near future. Every day we can do something to better ourselves both professionally and personally. To my fellow class of 2019 grads and others who are job searching right now: I’m rooting for you. I hope that you all get your “dream jobs” (or something close enough) where you’ll continue to grow and bring a lot of amazing skills to the table. We’re going to get through this. Keep your head held high every step of the way and to remember that you’re not alone in this.

It’s Ok to Step Away: Why I Decided to Say “No” & to Create Time for Myself

Vulnerable confession time: I’m admitting that I took on too much & need to step back. And you know what, that is completely okay.

This past October, I took on a part-time job in retail for the holidays. At first, I thought that I could handle this on random weekends and then during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. I quickly learned that yes, I could handle this job when things were great, but struggled deeply when additional issues, projects, and other things were put on my plate. I really was hitting a breaking point a few weeks ago and after getting sick (again) because I’m not taking care of my body, I stepped away from my part-time season job yesterday. And you know what, I feel GREAT. 

Sometimes we need to say no to things in order to heal, to recover after a very busy time, and to recreate time to care for ourselves. If I worked one job and had very few additional responsibilities, I may have been able to handle it. This semester I’ve been balancing 2 classes and a practicum, an assistantship where I supervise 17 RAs and can only be there 2 full days a week, supporting my family through ups and downs, wedding planning, and managing other things (i.e. leadership roles, extra responsibilities). I. Am. Drained. My work ethic is also too strong to half-ass my job (which is what I was doing). If I can’t put my 100% into something, I need to prioritize and reflect on my decisions.

So now, I’m creating time for self-care this winter break. I’m prioritizing myself and my family. I’m also mentally preparing and getting organized for the SA Job search early next semester (AHHHH). I will be reading young adult books in my jammies and getting coffee with my sister. And honestly, that’s what I need for my sanity. If you can cut back in an area of your life to take care of yourself, DO IT. I recognize that many aren’t always in this privileged position, especially with a second job, but there are still ways to create space for you. Even if it is just saying “no” to taking an extra shift at work or an extra project from a coworker. Here’s to making 2019 a year of saying “no” when I want,  saying “yes” to opportunities that grow me, and focusing on my physical, mental, and spiritual health to the best of my ability.

Finding Time to Balance it All

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I haven’t written much in a really, really long time. That is because I’ve been struggling to swim in the midst of the chaos that is my life this semester. On top of 2 classes, an assistantship as an Area Coordinator, and a practicum experience, I am also making an attempt to get my health in check (with a new diet plan), mentally preparing to begin the job search, working really hard to get my 7-9 hours of sleep, and somehow managing to make time for me. Oh, and did I mention that I got engaged?? (Which is SOOOO exciting, but also…wedding planning! Fun stuff, but again, more on my plate). Despite the chaos I’m somehow managing to breathe. Over the past 3 weeks I’ve committed to finding time to live a full, positive, successful life in the midst of the busyness. I’ve also tried (and sometimes failed) to look past the “culture of busy” in order to make meaning of all the things I have going on. So yes, I’ve had so many days this semester where I fell apart, but by changing my mindset, I feel more full overall. This is how I’m working to balance my chaos:

Do NOT compromise your health & well-being for ANYTHING. 

The first thing that I have not done in a while is compromise my health and well-being. The Angela from last year would have worked to solve her stress with a very unhealthy (yet oh, so satisfying) meal out. Stress eating is my weakness when it comes to having a lot going on. Over the past few months I started Weight Watchers in order to hold myself accountable and to live a healthier lifestyle. I can honestly say that I’m building healthier habits and feeling a million times better in the process. Instead of binge eating or taking a nap at 7pm, I take a brisk walk instead. I also make time to cook a healthy meal almost every evening. I make time to do things that are good for my body instead of reverting back to the bad habits of my college days. I’ve also significantly cut down on drinking alcohol, which has definitely helped me with feeling more alive and healthy. No matter what, do an evaluation of your health and wellness “bad habits.” Think about what you need to break in order to be your best self. And no matter what, don’t make excuses. NOW is the time to make a positive change for yourself.

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This is me a few weeks ago when I was struggling with some depression. I fought to force myself to attend Zumba & felt AMAZING. Don’t compromise your health & well-being!

Get things done EARLY.

This one is easier said than done. I always make strides to get my work done early when I can. In grad school, the homework readings pile up significantly quicker than in undergrad. Every week I make a huge list of all my homework tasks for the following week and I work to start them at least a few days in advance. Yes, there have been weeks where I’ve only been able to do the work the night before, but for the most part, I am preparing in advance which helps me to feel more knowledgable of the content and less anxious.

NEVER compromise time with your loved ones.

My fiancé helps me to hold my shit together. No matter what, I make sure that I make time for him as much as I can. It’s easy to push away those that we love when we are busy and struggling to make time for enjoyment. Every time I spend a weekend with him, I try to get my work done in advance so that I don’t have to focus on the stress that comes with thinking about my to-do list for the next week. He is also my person so spending time with him is also good for my mental health as well. No matter what, don’t forget about your person in grad school (or during life in general). They’ll make sure you stay sane throughout it all.

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This is my person. He’s pretty cool. Don’t forget about your person, ok? 

Maximize your time.

My latest goal is to maximize my time to feel recharged and productive. I’ve been trying to be more attentive to my productive times while listening to my body when I need times of rest. I make sure that I can go to bed early when I don’t have events and that I wake up about 2 hours before work so that I can get things done in the morning. In addition, I tell myself that no matter how exhausted I feel, I will be a million times better with a good walk or workout. Figure out what your body needs and make time for it. You’ll feel more recharged and productive later. You’ll also feel better mentally!

Don’t stress over the little things & live in the moment.

The greatest thing I remind myself of is that it’s a waste of energy to stress over the little things. I do so much better when I take a breather to recharge and then work to complete whatever stressful/anxiety-inducing task is in front of me. I’m also working to live in the moment. Sometimes it’s more fulfilling to take a beautiful sunset walk than to get my homework done right that second. Or instead of getting annoyed that there are students laughing in my office I should put my work aside and join in their laughter. After all, that’s why I’m in this field in the first place. Make time to enjoy things. Don’t stress over the small stuff. Remember to live.

Overall, you CAN balance it all. The journey isn’t an easy one, but it’s worth it in the end. I’m sick of living a lifestyle where I’m completely exhausted all the time. Life is entirely too short to focus on those things that bring you anxiety. Sometimes you need to check yourself and your behavior in order to move forward in the right direction. Now go & focus on what you need to do to get your life in order. I believe in you!

A Year of Positive Living: My #SAGrad Journey

Originally posted by my friends at Involvio @ blog.involvio.com. 

The journey of a Student Affairs graduate student is not an easy one (as I’m sure many of you know). Many SA grads like myself have to balance an assistantship, classes, internships, volunteering, family, friends, self-care, and a million other things. Last year I quickly learned that a combination of many stressors can bring a person down.

This is why my goal for the second year of SA grad is to be more positive and to make more time for myself.

Although I am typically a very self-aware person, I often forget how challenging life becomes when I do not make enough introvert time for myself. My first lesson learned is that I need to create concrete, scheduled, non-negotiable introvert time for myself during the week. Another really crucial thing for me to realize is that I should not listen to people who tell me that I am not an introvert because I am “too outgoing” and that I am “not quiet at all.” Introversion and extroversion are the ways that we recharge when we are at our busiest. So yes, I am very outgoing and bubbly but I am still in need of my time to recharge and refocus in the ways that work best for me.

In addition to taking care of my needs as an introvert, I also learned that venting is a very unhealthy coping mechanism for me. If you know me, you would say that I am not typically a negative person. The unfortunate reality is that I allowed myself to fall into a very detrimental, dark mindset where I struggled to find positivity in the world. I struggled with managing my negative emotions and did not process through those emotions in an appropriate way. I am now getting into the habit of stepping back and reframing my mindset before I speak poorly of a situation or individual. Yes, the world is not perfect and bad things happen, but this is not a reason to continuously speak out of negativity. It is a challenge, but I know in my heart that this is the right thing to do. Although venting is a healthy coping mechanism for others, it certainly is not the best one for me.

Finally, I learned that I need to celebrate each moment and to appreciate this experience. Again, life is not perfect and graduate school is extremely stressful at times. I need to step back in order to be thankful for this journey. I also need to live in the moment because the experience goes by quickly.

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In conclusion, I want to leave you with some things that help me with living a more positive #SAGrad life! I hope that you will make it your goal to do the same.
• Write in a gratitude journal daily. I write 3 things that I am grateful for in the morning and at night, and then write 3 goals for myself each day. Instead of writing job or school-related goals, I write simple things like “laugh a lot” or “make self-care time.” I find it easier to accomplish these simple, yet fulfilling goals.

• Take care of your mental health in the ways that work best for you. I feel a drastic difference in my mental health when I take the time to go to workout classes and eat healthy. I absolutely love yoga and Zumba because they are a fun way to get in a workout. Some other strategies that are helpful to me are attending regular counseling sessions, getting enough sleep at night, and taking my medication. The more we talk about our mental health needs, the less stigmatized it becomes. It is important to find out what works for you!

• Make time for the people that mean most to you. I am a very family-oriented person, so I spend the majority of my time with my fiancé, my family, or my fiancé’s family. This means that my friends sometimes fall by the wayside, which is not okay. My new goal is to make time for my friends, especially the long-distance ones, and to give them a call at least once a week. I also plan to schedule time for my friends in the area at least once a month. Grad school is tough and many of us abandon our friends for a period of time because of our insane schedules. By scheduling out my time, my hope is that I can continue to stay connected to the people who mean the most.

#SAGrad First Year Wrap-Up: Lessons Learned & Goals Going Forward

I am happy to say that I’ve officially finished my first year of my student affairs masters program! Although it’s been a difficult transition at times, I’m happy to say that I’ve grown as a person, learned a lot about myself, & know what I need to do going forward into my second year.

The first thing I learned about myself is that I need to accept what I cannot change and to embrace the challenges that I am given.

Grad school is not meant to be an easy journey. Sometimes you’ll have 200+ pages of reading while you’re on-call for a big party weekend. Sometimes you’ll plan an event and no one will show up. There were times that I struggled deeply to accept my challenges for what they were. I complained a lot and ended up falling into a deeply negative mindset at times. I recognize that going forward, I truly need to reframe my mindset in order to accept my challenges and to understand how that challenge will help me to grow as a person and a professional. I also can’t fixate on the bad things that are happening. There is always something to be grateful for in the midst of the bad. I need to remember this.

I also learned that it is important to focus on self-care, even when I have a busy week with class, my assistantship, and life.

I have a tendency to say “yes” to helping everyone, eat terribly when I don’t have time to cook a healthy meal, make time for other people instead of taking introvert time for myself, etc. There were multiple times during the semester that I would let all of my stress pile up until I had a minor meltdown. Going forward, I truly need to work on establishing a balance, planning accordingly, and refusing to negotiate my self-care practices. Practicing self-care isn’t always the easiest when we have a million things going on, which is why it’s important to make it a priority at all times.

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Professionally, I learned a lot of lessons from my assistantship.

It was difficult at times for me to go from a private institution to public branch campus. At my private campus, I had control over a lot of processes and had more autonomy to create programs/events/processes for my residents. I have learned an important lesson about respecting and valuing the political structure and established processes of an institution. It took a long time for me to recognize the importance of this lesson, and I know now going forward that I need to take a step back in order to understand the institutional structure and processes while also working to understand the policies and procedures that may not make sense to me right away. I also learned that I need to reflect on institutional style when I apply for a job. Overall, I have gained a lot from working at a completely different type of campus, and for that I am truly grateful.

I learned to focus on being grateful for my students and what they teach me every day.

After all, working with students is why I am in this field! My students have challenged me, made me laugh hysterically, made me feel valued, and helped me to grow as a person more than I could have ever imagined this year. I am so grateful for them and the amazing work they do. It is also rewarding to recognize the impact that I’ve made on their lives as well.

Personally, I also reaffirmed the importance of maintaining a personal life outside of grad school.

As an older SA Grad I knew that I wanted to make sufficient time for my partner and my family. I am thankful that I successfully spent time with them almost every weekend, as well as some of my cohort friends. It helps to have a boyfriend who sits with me for hours at Starbucks when I write papers and understands when I need to take some time to finish my readings in the evenings. After spending 3 years living in another state, I am extremely grateful to have been able to spend more time with the important people in my life and to strengthen our relationships over the past year. Make time for those you love. You’ll regret it in the end if you forget about them during your graduate journey.

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My SAHE Cohort friends & I went to see RENT in Pittsburgh this semester!

Things for Future SA Grads to keep in mind: 

Based on my experience, I thought it would be good to pull together a list for those of you who are going into SA Grad year 1 next year to keep in mind. Essentially these are the lessons I learned from this year and I hope that they are helpful for you to know before you start your journey.

  1. Accept your challenges for what they are and take time to reflect on how they are going to help you to grow. Your experience isn’t going to be an easy one. Focus on why the challenging things are happening and what will come from them.
  2. Focus on your self-care practices. Don’t let them fall by the wayside. We slip up at times and forget about ourselves, but ultimately, we should make time to re-center ourselves to focus back on what we need to succeed.
  3. Understand the structure of where you are working. How do you fit in as a grad? What are the policies and procedures that you need to understand and to accept? Know these things and respect them. It is okay to question things respectfully, just don’t let the things that you don’t understand or those that you cannot change to hinder your experience.
  4. Start reflecting on what you want from your future institution when you are in the job search. That’s the point of this experience. You are here to not only fortify your skills, but to know what you need (and don’t need) from a future employer.
  5. Make time for a life outside of graduate school! And know that you’re not selfish for not making grad your everything. Yes, it is important, but you need to be human outside of it.
  6. Know who your support system is and embrace them. Make time for them and allow them to take care of you when you need them.
  7. Find healthy outlets to process your frustrations. I had a tendency to verbally (and negatively) vent this year, which was actually detrimental to my positivity. Although venting works for many people, I have a healthier outlook on life when I take time to actually reflect on and to process my frustrations. Blogging, journaling, and having constructive conversations with your support humans definitely help!
  8. Know that your journey isn’t going to be like everyone else’s and that’s ok. Sometimes we have more difficult weeks than others. Sometimes those around us are going through more than we know. Focus on your journey and don’t compare it to others.
  9. It’s ok to have bad days, but don’t let it bring you down as a person. You don’t have to be happy 24/7 as a grad or to know what you’re doing at all times. The important thing is to move forward when you’re having a bad day. Don’t fixate on it.
  10. Have fun! The biggest thing is to enjoy the experience because it goes by quickly!

SA Grad is an incredible, yet difficult journey. You’ll fall at times. You’ll have many triumphs. You’ll meet a ton of incredible people. Know that your journey is what you make it. Whatever you do, make sure that you focus on what you want and need from this journey. And know that there are a ton of other student affairs professionals who are rooting for you along the way!

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Thankful to have learned so much from this incredible group of SAHE Faculty this year!